By Halil Karaveli
June 6, 2016
The celebration of the conquest of Constantinople 1453 is an expression of Turkey’s quest for purity. The “ideology of conquest,” the need to symbolically and repeatedly reclaim what has been Ottoman and Turkish for centuries, ultimately speaks of an existential unease with a historical legacy that is marked by a heterogeneity that is unsettling for an authoritarian state that seeks uniformity. The need to celebrate the conquest of the most important city of the land shows that Turkey is yet to become reconciled with its past. Such reconciliation calls for assuming the entirety of what is a multi-layered historical legacy. Recognizing that Turkey is the result, not so much of conquest, as of a history of continuous mixing and assimilation of aboriginal cultures and state traditions, is also the key to coming to terms with country’s ethnic and cultural diversity today and securing a democratic future for Turkey.
Güray Öz in Cumhuriyet writes that it is obvious that the AKP is working to bring about a fundamental regime change, and he says that this aligns with bourgeois class interests. One could say that the objective is to put in place an “eastern despotic” regime that is Sunni Islamic in ideological terms. This will inevitably have certain consequences for those who have so far engaged with Western capital and politics in terms of their economic and cultural relations; they will have to be “persuaded.” In fact, we can observe that the capitalist class is content, that its profits are doubling, and that they are prepared to share their gains (with new business interests.) They may not be fully content with the country’s course, but it will not be difficult to persuade them. What we are talking about is not any resistance of some members of the capitalist class, but of some unease. International “concerns” also fall into this category; international players are busy trying to convince the ruling party and its leader to be more “middle of the road.” Unfortunately, those who could make a difference about where Turkey is headed -- those who defend the interests of popular classes -- are not in any position to influence the country’s course. Unless leftists, progressives and democrats get their act together, “Islamic despotism” will not be easy to dissolve.
Özgür Mumcu in Cumhuriyet notes that the presence of the chief of the general staff, General Hulusi Akar, as a witness as the wedding of Sümeyye Erdoğan, the youngest of President Erdoğan’s daughters, provoked angry reactions among those who – like betrayed lovers -- are used to pinning their hopes on the military. This is not a meaningful reaction, but apparently we needed a wedding picture to realize what the power structure looks like. It was the military-industrial complex that posed for the wedding picture. This is the situation of the military that some hope so much from. And the same goes for the “Istanbul capital” that again, some expect will provide salvation. These capital interests are standing in line to get defense contracts (from the state). Erdoğan, the military, big capital and MHP form a united front. The wedding picture is instructive: it reminds that democracy will not come with the help of big capital and the military. Erdoğan, capital, the army and MHP are hand in hand. Had the laws about contract labor passed so easily if it hadn’t been for this alliance? The power relations are as easy to read as an open book: A united rightist bloc, behind it big capital, and the military as its assurance. These are all well-known themes for the left, for a left that once again needs to bring back class to the center of the political agenda.
Ergun Babahan in Özgür Düşünce comments a news article in the Wall Street Journal according to which the “Palace” (President Erdoğan) is concerned about a prospect of a military coup. The United States will support a coup in Turkey if vital American interests are threatened, and the Turkish Armed Forces will never stage a coup unless it has American support for it. For the moment, Turkey does not have a stance that threatens American interests. Yes, the American administration cannot stand Erdoğan. It dislikes his authoritarian style. However, that’s not a reason enough for a coup. Besides, the Turkish regime does everything that the U.S. administration tells it to do in the region and in Turkey. Yes, it takes some effort to bend Turkey, but this is not anything new. Turkey was always a troublesome ally. The Erdoğan regime is not doing anything, nor has it taken any such decisions, that would jeopardize the interests of American companies. Furthermore, American interests are served by the fact that Turkey has become totally dependent on the West since the downing (last year) of the Russian plane (in Syria.) The same reasons apply to the Turkish military. The military is convinced that Turkey can only survive with the Turkish-Islamic synthesis. And the AKP gets the blame for all human right violations, ensuring the image of the Armed Forces is unharmed.
Murat Belge in Birikim notes that Tayyip Erdoğan has made an alliance with the military, but he asks if this also means that there’s an agreement between the president and the generals. An agreement means that those who have made it decide to abandon defending at least some of the things they respectively believe in. It doesn’t mean that two sides have come to share the same views, only that they have created a basis that allows for them to co-exist side by side. I’m of the opinion that Tayyip Erdoğan believes that he has reached such an “agreement” with the Armed Forces, or more correctly with its current high command. At the same time, I’m of the opinion that this is not an “agreement.” Above all, Tayyip Erdoğan himself hasn’t changed his mind about anything. But there can still be “common goals,” as for instance the present Kurdish policy. On this point they have met. Moreover, the stance toward Europe also seems to present a potential point of convergence. If the stance of the military is still the same as it was during the 1990’s, then this means that the military is against the EU. And Tayyip Erdoğan has no sympathy toward the EU. To sum, my opinion is that there is no “agreement” between the Armed forces and Tayyip Erdoğan regarding certain principles, but that there is a “cease-fire.” Every cease-fire has the potential of evolve into an agreement, and that can very well happen. However, this is not going to be an agreement about respecting the principles of democracy and on paving the way for democratization. That much can be predicted today.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.